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COLUMN: Dear IU instructors, save finals for finals week



I’ve noticed a common trend during dead week. Instructors decide to do everyone a “favor” by making the class’s final project due earlier than finals, or in some cases even holding the final exam before finals week. 

The logic presented by some instructors is that, since finals week is presumably the most stressful time of year, students’ lives will be easier if they get finals out of the way early on. Completing all the work for their class will conveniently allow students to focus on other classes.

It has never worked out this way for me. While I understand many IU students tend to have a different experience, finals week is often the most relaxed week of the semester for me.

Classes do not meet during finals week. It works that way for a reason. That way, we have plenty of time to ourselves during finals week, which we can use to study for final exams and work on final papers and projects.

When final due dates get moved to dead week, or even the week before dead week, all the stress piles up during weeks when we actually do have classes. Then, finals week becomes a week of lounging around, with many students just waiting to have their last final before skipping town.

The past couple semesters, my roommates have used finals week to watch the entire “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” film franchises. I think that illustrates the relative ease of finals week.

It’s obvious why some instructors want to make final projects due earlier. That gives them more time to grade. It can be difficult, of course, for some instructors to get grades finished by their deadlines if final assignments are turned in at the last minute.

That’s why it is acceptable for a final project to be due before finals week if there is also a final exam for the class, conducted at its scheduled time. But even in those cases, if the exam is later in the week, it can be nice to have the project due earlier in the week, or vice versa. Something being due Tuesday of finals week is much less stressful than it being due Tuesday the week before.

And those instructors who do have both in-depth final exams and major final projects for their classes should make sure both are necessary. If students are to produce their best possible work, overloading them is not going to help.

One good rule of thumb is that if you, as an instructor, are terrified by the prospect of having to grade all your final exams and projects by the deadline, your students are probably equally stressed about taking those exams and doing those projects.

Let’s make finals week the least horrible experience it can be for all of us. Instructors, allow your students to take advantage of this time when classes do not meet.

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